Processing of semantic incongruency at the onset of sleep: An auditory N400 evoked potential study.

Diezig, Sarah; Spaar, Melissa; Denzer, Simone; Achermann, Peter; Mast, Fred W; Koenig, Thomas (2023). Processing of semantic incongruency at the onset of sleep: An auditory N400 evoked potential study. International journal of psychophysiology, 188, pp. 47-54. Elsevier 10.1016/j.ijpsycho.2023.03.006

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The ability to organize self-generated thought into coherent, meaningful semantic representations is a central aspect of human cognition and undergoes regular alterations throughout the day. To investigate whether changes in semantic processing might explain the loss of coherence, logic, and voluntary control over thinking typically accompanying the transition to sleep, we recorded N400 evoked potentials from 44 healthy subjects. Auditory word pairs with varying semantic distance were presented while they were allowed to fall asleep. Using semantic distance and wakefulness level as regressors, we found that semantic distance reliably elicited an N400, and lower wakefulness levels were associated with increased frontal negativity within a similar time range. Additionally, and contrary to our initial hypothesis, the results showed an interaction of semantic distance and wakefulness that is best interpreted as an increased N400 effect with decreasing wakefulness. While these results do not rule out a possible role of semantic processes in the generation of diminished logic and thought control during the transition to sleep, we discuss the possibility of additional brain mechanisms that usually constrain the inner stream of consciousness during wakefulness.

Item Type:

Journal Article (Original Article)


04 Faculty of Medicine > University Psychiatric Services > University Hospital of Psychiatry and Psychotherapy > Translational Research Center
07 Faculty of Human Sciences > Institute of Psychology > Cognitive Psychology, Perception and Methodology

Graduate School:

Graduate School for Health Sciences (GHS)

UniBE Contributor:

Diezig, Sarah, Denzer, Simone, Mast, Fred, König, Thomas


600 Technology > 610 Medicine & health
100 Philosophy > 150 Psychology








Pubmed Import

Date Deposited:

21 Mar 2023 10:52

Last Modified:

22 Mar 2024 00:25

Publisher DOI:


PubMed ID:


Uncontrolled Keywords:

Event-related potentials Formal thought disorder N400 Self-generated thought Semantic processing Transition to sleep




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